Travel Destinations

10 Things to Do in Iceland

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Iceland is truly the land of fire and ice. It is a playground of volcanos, hot springs, glaciers and ice caps, but also so much more. You can find country farmhouses, fresh seafood, city nightlife and a never ending list of things to do. Here are some of our top things to do in Iceland:

Reykjavík

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Dotted with colorful houses, thriving cafes, seafood restaurants and laid back pubs, Iceland’s hip capital is a destination in itself. For such a small city, there is not a shortage of activities to do or things to see. If you enjoy a party scene, you’ll love the nightlife in Reykjavík. From walking around the old harbor, checking out settlement museums and eating the freshest seafood, it is worth devoting a few days to.

Tour Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is like a mini sample of everything Iceland. Country views of old wooden churches, glacier topped mountains, underground lava caves, and beautiful black sand beaches - not to mention some of the most beautiful towns in Iceland. It is a hotspot for setting out on whale and puffin spotting tours as well as hiking through the Snæfellsjökull national park. We highly recommend spending a few days exploring.

Tectonic Plates at Þingvellir National Park

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In Þingvellir National Park there is an entire rift valley formed by the separation of the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasia tectonic plate. They are drifting apart at about 2 centimeters a year and it is quite an astonishing site. This is also an extremely important area of preserved land in relation to its historical importance to the settlement of Iceland.

Geothermal Pool Hopping

One of the hottest things to do in Iceland is to get out of cold temperatures and into the naturally occurring, heated, geothermal pools all around the country. One of the best known is the Blue Lagoon which is extremely close to both the international airport and the capital city of Reykjavík. There are so many though that you could make a trip just traveling around the country and enjoying the “hotspots”.

The Golden Circle

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A popular tourist track for good reason, the Golden Circle has a lot to offer. See Gullfoss, one of the craziest waterfalls in the world. Visit Geysir, the geyser of which all others get their name and it’s much more active companion Strokkur, which spouts 15 meters of water every 5-10 minutes. It is also where you will find the Þingvellir National Park which we previously mentioned.



See the Northern Lights

One of the biggest attractions in Iceland are the Northern Lights. From September to April you have the opportunity to spot the colorful lights of the Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky. The conditions have to be just right and it requires patience and darkness. It’s no guarantee that you’ll spot them but if you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Chasing Waterfalls

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With a never ending list of beautiful waterfalls, one of the best things to do in Iceland is to seek them out. We can assure you that you won’t be disappointed. Gullfoss and Skógafoss are two of the most popular.

Whale Watching

Iceland is a go to spot for whale watching and it’s easy to understand why. You can set off on whale watching tours from convenient locations all over the country - even Reykjavík. There are an incredible 23 different types of whales to see including humpback whales and minke whales. If you have never seen these incredible animals in person, you are in for a treat!

Black Sand Beaches

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Several black sand beaches dot Iceland’s coastline and are truly unique and special places. They occur in nature in areas around high volcanic and geothermal activity and are made up of volcanic minerals and lava fragments. The most famous one in Iceland is Reynisfjara on the South Coast near Vík.

Explore Lava Caves

Lava caves or lava tubes are sometimes formed during volcanic eruptions when lava hardens around free flowing lava streams which eventually drain the tubes leaving only the hardened shell. These are incredibly interesting and are actually all over Iceland. However, there are only a few that can be accessed and are open to explore with a guide. We recommend Vatnshellir Cave on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Iceland is truly a special place with nothing like it anywhere else on our planet. If you have the chance to visit you should definitely take advantage and explore all there is to do, you won’t be disappointed.


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12 Incredible Things To Do in Nicaragua

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Nicaragua has a special place in my heart. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Nicaragua, the country was my home for over 2 years. On a recent trip back to relive my time there, I was reminded of how great of a travel destination it is. Nicaragua has beautiful nature, great surf, is inexpensive and safe. The people that live there are extremely hospitable and accommodating. Even though Nicaragua is no longer a well kept secret in the travel community, there are still plenty of places to get off the beaten path. If you're looking for a new adventure, we can't recommend this Central American country enough. Here are 12 incredible things to do in Nicaragua.

Explore Granada

The colonial city of Granada offers some incredibly preserved architecture and is one of the most popular places to visit in Nicaragua. Walk the streets and explore the Spanish colonial buildings and churches, most of which are painted vibrant colors and feature beautiful doors that are no less incredible. Besides wandering around the city, you can take a boat ride or kayak around the islets in the lake nearby. Granada also has the best assortment of restaurants and bars in Nicaragua.

Zip Line on a Volcano

Take a short day trip from Granada to Mombacho Volcano to zip line through the treetops in a jungle setting on the side of one of Nicaragua's many volcanoes. Mombacho Volcano offers some great hikes as well but if you're short on time, we highly recommend the zip line experience.

Visit Ometepe Island

One of the most unique places in the world, Ometepe Island, is a small island located in the biggest lake in Central America and is made up mostly of two large volcanoes. Outdoor activities are a big draw to Ometepe, and you can expect great experiences whether you're cycling, kayaking or hiking. If you're up for the challenge, hike one (or both) of the island's volcanoes. It truly is a challenge to hike either volcano and you'll need to start early to beat the heat. Make sure you use a guide for your hike.

See Lava at the Masaya Volcano

Nothing will make you respect mother nature more than staring into the bubbling lava of an active volcano. This is exactly what you can do on Masaya Volcano. You can look into the volcano from a safe distance that you can reach by tour, hiking or driving straight to the top. Be aware that you should not stay longer than a few minutes at the volcanoes peak because of the strong fumes.

Visit the Craft Market in Masaya

The craft market in Masaya is another great day trip from Granada. It is by far the largest craft market in Nicaragua and offers beautiful textiles, paintings and other crafts. There is a separate "locals" market in Masaya that is equally interesting to explore but features less souvenir items and isn't curated for tourists. There is very limited accommodations in Masaya so we recommend visiting on a day trip.

Swim in Laguna de Apoyo

A relaxing spot nearby Granada and the capital city of Managua, visit Laguna de Apoyo to relax for the day or spend a few days at a guest house or hostel on the lagoon. Laguna de Apoyo was formed in the crater of an extinct volcano and offers beautiful views and incredible nature. Sail, fish, swim or hike around the lagoon or just take some time to relax. 

Surf along the Pacific Coast

The beaches on the pacific coast of Nicaragua are beautiful and most offer excellent surfing opportunites. Nicaraguan surf beaches are a less crowded alternative to it's neighbor in Costa Rica but offer similar swells. The sunsets aren't bad either!

Explore Leon

Another colonial city, Leon is less colorful than Granada but still has some amazingly preserved architecture, including the largest cathedral in Central America. You can climb to the roof of the cathedral for some great views of the city. Leon is the former capital of Nicaragua and remains the country's "intellectual capital" boasting one of the main universities and several museums. Make sure you visit the Revolution Museum, especially if you are interested in learning about the Sandanista movement and U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. Additionally, many murals marking the political impact of the war between the Somoza regime and the Sandanistas can be spotted around the city. 

Go Volcano Boarding

A day trip from Leon, visit Cerro Negro (the youngest volcano in Central America) where you can hike up and actually sled down the active volcano. Organized tours leave Leon in the mornings and are one of the most popular activities in Nicaragua. While there are ways to slow down or speed up, be advised that you can be seriously injured while volcano boarding.

Swim through Somoto Canyon

Somoto Canyon is still a fairly under the radar tourist activity in Nicaragua. A day trip from the city of Esteli, you can jump off the canyon cliffs and swim in the turquoise water below. There are several tour companies that will take you to explore the canyons or you can do self guided tours. Please use extreme caution if not on a tour and you want to jump from cliffs. We have had close friends severely injure themselves. 

Escape to the Corn Islands

One of the best getaways in all of Nicaragua are the Corn Islands located off the Caribbean coast. There are two islands - Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island. Big Corn is slightly more expensive and offers more resort style accommodations. Little Corn Island is quieter, cheaper and extremely laid back. It is the perfect place to snorkel, dive, or just read a book on the beach. Little Corn Island is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get scuba certified.

Relax in Pearl Lagoon

Another Caribbean destination where you can really slow down and experience other cultures that Nicaragua has to offer is Pearl Lagoon. Most of the towns population is Creole but there are also indigenous groups like the Miskito and Garifuna that make up the towns inhabitants and the main language spoken here is English. Not a major tourist destination, Pearl Lagoon is hard to get to but it is truly a special place in Nicaragua and well worth the trip. The Pearl Cays off the coast of Pearl Lagoon are especially worth the visit, where you can rent a boat guide and have a whole Caribbean island to yourself for the day.


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8 Things to do in Singapore

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A futuristic city that combines lush greenery with modern urban landscapes, Singapore is leading the charge into "green" cities around the world. But beyond the parks and gardens which have earned Singapore the nickname, the Garden City, there is still a lot to do and see. From shopping to street food, here 8 of our favorite things to do in Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands

An iconic feature of Singapore's skyline, Marina Bay Sands is a giant hotel complex that features a hotel, shopping center, several restaurants, and observation deck. The rooftop bar overlooks the Gardens by the Bay and provides an incredible view of the city. It's also the perfect place to catch a sunset while drinking a Singapore sling.

Gardens by the Bay

Perhaps the most well known attraction in the city, Gardens by the Bay, is a fascinating and futuristic ecosystem of botanical gardens that will help you understand why they call Singapore "The Garden City". Gardens by the Bay features enormous biodomes with exotic plants, man-made supertrees, and beautiful park areas all connected by various pathways and suspension bridges. Go at night to see the supertrees lit up and stick around for the light shows set to music.

Chinatown

Take a stroll around Chinatown and explore Singapore's Chinese heritage. Navigate the tacky souvenir stands and explore the colorful shophouses and delicious restaurants. Don't miss the Chinatown Heritage Centre for an in depth view into Chinatown's past.

Orchard Road

If you're a shopper in Singapore, chances are you will find your way to Orchard Road. If you're in Singapore but aren't much of a shopper, chances are you will still find your way to Orchard Road. Busy malls, upscale designer stores and surprisingly good restaurants make up this popular shopping street. You may be surprised to find that it is actually very much a place of interest for locals and tourists alike.

National Gallery Singapore

Located in the recently renovated Supreme Court building in downtown Singapore, the National Gallery Singapore features a large collection of modern art from in and around Singapore. The gallery aims to reflect Singapore's unique culture and heritage as well as it's relationship with other Asian countries and the world as a whole. If you like modern art, this is a must visit.

Haji Lane

Lined with shophouses, Haji Lane, has become the go to street for independent shops, boutique designers and hip bars. Take some pictures exploring the colorful streets, visit quirky vintage shops or stop for a beer and some people watching.

Little India

Featuring some extremely well preserved shophouses from the colonial era, Little India is one of the most vibrant areas of Singapore. Roam the incense infused streets, enjoy amazing Indian food and visit colorful Hindu temples. A great place to get lost for a few hours.

Hawker Stands

One of the best reasons to visit Singapore is the food. With an incredible mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian flavors, there is no shortage of good food in the city. But what really makes Singapore's food scene special are the hawker stands. Visit any of several hawker centers around town for incredible and affordable dining. We're talking food courts with Michelin-starred street food.


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Top 5 Small Towns in the U.S. for the Holidays

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Some towns in the U.S. go all out for the holidays, from ornately decorated town squares to Christmas carolers reveling in holiday cheer and much more. We searched for the best small towns to spend the holidays, coast to coast. Here are our top five picks.

Leavenworth, Washington

Always making the rankings of small towns with lots of Christmas spirit, Leavenworth   is a great place to spend the holidays. This cheerful Bavarian town offers an assortment of festivities including the Christmas Lighting Festival, a sledding hill and sleigh rides through the woods. Throw in majestic mountain views and you'll feel like your in your very own winter wonderland for the holidays.

Pacific Grove, California

This costal town in Northern California gets plenty of attention over the holidays. With an old-fashioned tree lighting ceremony and a parade of lights, the town sure looks the part. Add on the "Christmas at the Inns" event where several of the town's bed and breakfasts put out their best holiday adornments and open their doors with holiday music and treats. Finally, you won't want to miss the famous "Candy Cane Lane" for some of the best neighborhood Christmas decorations.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Named Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in 1741, this Pennsylvania town is also appropriately referred to as "Christmas City" and is the perfect holiday travel destination. Take a carriage ride around town or check out the ginger bread house competition and exhibit, or even go on walking tour of historic sites on the Christmas City Stroll. Lastly, don't miss the Christkindlmarkt, one of the top holiday markets in the U.S. featuring vendors offering fine art and other unique items.

Crested Butte, Colorado

There's no place to spend the holidays quite like Crested Butte. For one thing, you're sure to have a white christmas in this laid back ski resort town. After a day on the slopes, catch the lighting of the Christmas tree at Light Up Night and stick around to take pictures with Santa. On Christmas Eve, its tradition for Santa to ride down the mountain in a sleigh pulled by a snowcat at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Santa's sledding is followed by the famous torchlight parade performed by the Crested Butte Ski and Ride School. 

Fredericksburg, Texas

A special combination of German Christmas traditions and Texas hospitality, Fredericksburg is a fantastic choice for a holiday getaway. Explore the many boutiques, shops and art galleries on the festive Main Street, attend the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and be sure to catch the annual Christmas parade. But this year, instead of milk and cookies for Christmas, opt for wine and cheese on a tour of the many local wineries that make Fredericksburg a such a magical place to visit any time of the year.


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5 Reasons to Visit George Town in Penang, Malaysia

A charming, multi-cultural, World Heritage Site that some argue is the food capital of Southeast Asia? If you haven't heard of George Town yet, we are here to tell you that it should be on your bucket list. Here's why:

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The Culture

With sizable populations of Chinese, Malay, Indian and British, George Town is an extremely diverse city. Four languages are spoken widely - Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil. Several religions are practiced - Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Taoism. With so much diversity, a traveler could spend a lifetime engulfed in the culture and constantly be learning. The best part? The multi-culturalism spills out in every way imaginable leaving its mark on everything from the architecture to the food. 

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The History

George Town has a long and complex history. It was one of the first British settlements in Southeast Asia by the British East India Company. There was mass immigration of Chinese settlers in search of work during the 19th centurty. The city was subjugated by the Japanese during World War II and later recaptured by the British at the end of the war. There is a lot to learn about and a lot to see. Thankfully, the historical core of the city is a protected World Heritage Site and there are many historical museums and buildings in the city to visit.  

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The Architecture

Most of George Town's historical buildings are located within the UNESCO World Heritage zone. The architecture found here represents a fascinating mix of cultural heritage, mostly of European and Chinese style (as well as Indian influence in the Little India area). The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion are two of the most famous and beautiful examples of the unique style. 

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The Street Art

In 2012, as part of the annual George Town Festival, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic created a street art series around the city depicting local culture and lifestyle. These works often incorporate objects like bicycles, motorcycles and chairs and have become celebrated cultural landmarks. Since then, the street art scene in George Town has continued to develop, with local and international artists making their marks.

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The Food

Is George Town Southeast Asia's best food city? We'll let you decide for yourselves but we wouldn't argue with anyone claiming it. Expertly blended flavors of Malaysia, China, India and Thailand make it the place to be for foodies everywhere. From perfectly curated shophouse cafes to delicious luxury hotel eats, George Town has something for everyone. But the real treasure is in the inexpensive hawker stall street food stands where you will get amazing food and a truly unforgettable experience. If you're unsure what to try, you can't go wrong with local favorites like asam laksa, char kway teow, or rojak.


Planning a trip to Malaysia? Get an Adventure Assist travel notebook over on our SHOP page to help you plan and stay organized on your travels! 

Must Do's in Marfa

Marfa, Texas - The middle of nowhere or the center of the universe? 

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Marfa is a mythical, art town in remote west Texas. We love it for its raw simplicity mixed with modern art and design, but can’t help get a kick out of the genuine quirkiness of the tiny desert town. When you finally arrive you’ll realize exactly how remote and small Marfa really is (wait, this is it?!). After all, that’s what drew the late American artist Donald Judd to the area in the first place. Judd put this place on the map when he purchased an old army base in the 70’s and literally filled it with art. The installations are still operated by the Chinati Foundation and are part of the inescapable art scene in Marfa. 

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Chinati Foundation

Some other Must Do's in Marfa:

Prada Marfa - This art installation, which is actually in Valentine, about 30 minutes outside of town, is definitely something to be seen. With no direct relation to the Prada fashion house, making it all the more bizarre, the installation is a tiny Prada store with windows where you can see a small sample of Prada's 2005 fall/winter collection inside, provided by Miuccia Prada herself.

Lunch at Food Shark - Quite possibly the most famous eatery in Marfa is the food truck Food Shark. The truck serves up some seriously delicious Mediterranean treats. One of our favorites - for it's name and the taste - is the "Marfalafel". 

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Stay at El Cosmico - The coolest trailer park on planet earth! You are able to stay in a teepee, a tent, a yurt or one of many remodeled trailers. Make a stop in at the gift shop to find an excellent selection of souvenirs. 

Marfa Mystery Lights - At night, head over to the designated Marfa Lights Viewing Site to witness mysterious "ghost" lights in the distance. The lights may seem mysterious but we're pretty sure they're just automobile lights passing by in the distance. Either way, it is a fun experience and worth the trip if you're with a good group.

Coffee at Do Your Thing - This well hidden coffee shop has a great selection of coffee and tea, as well as an assortment of toasts with sweet or savory toppings. A terrific spot for breakfast, or a snack.

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Dinner at Capri - This is a bold statement but Capri gives off sort of a Pujol (in Mexico City) vibe, and is a Marfa must in our book. With impeccable style throughout, a beautiful garden complete with a lit bonfire, and delicious and well presented food and drink, Capri really stands out. Did we mention that their menu changes every night?

 

Star Party - McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis (45 min. drive) hosts nighttime constellation tours and views of celestial objects through telescopes every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. These tours have gained popularity recently so we suggest making reservations.

Pool at Hotel Saint George - The newest hotel edition to Marfa, Hotel Saint George has excellent rooms, a cocktail lounge with great happy hour, and a fine dining restaurant. But we especially love the pool area with a full service bar ($10 entry for non-guests). 


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11 Unforgettable Things To Do in Venice

There's nowhere in the world quite like Venice. The city offers what seems like an unlimited amount of sights to see and things to do. Here are just a few that aren't to be missed when you visit this magical city of canals.

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TRIP DOWN THE GRAND CANAL

The first thing that anyone should do on their visit to Venice is take a trip down the Grand Canal. Considered Venice's main "road", the S shaped waterway splits the city in half and features many beautiful and historic sites along the route. From the train station you can hop on a vaporetto (water bus) and tour the whole city as an incredible introduction to Venice.

GONDOLA RIDE

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It may be cheesy and it may be expensive but you should not pass up the opportunity to take a gondola ride in Venice. If you had any doubts, we are here to tell you that it is worth it. You can pick up a gondola almost anywhere in Venice and prices are standard and agreed upon beforehand. Our recommendation - hop on around the Rialto Market and ask to be taken into the back canals past Marco Polo's house. 

BASILICA DI SAN MARCO

Sitting within Piazza San Marco is the beautiful church of the same name. Its an elaborate work of art that was built to honor Saint Mark after Venetian merchants smuggled his remains out of Egypt to be housed at the church. It is Venice's official cathedral and a can't miss site at the city's most popular piazza.

PALAZZO DUCALE (DOGE'S PALACE)

At one time, Venice's political and administrative center, Palazzo Ducale has an impressive historical importance. Another must see in the busy Piazza San Marco, the palace was also once the residence of the Doges of Venice and features beautiful architecture and artwork. 

PONTE DI RIALTO

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The stone bridge, an impressive feat of engineering, took 3 years to complete in 1591 by Antonia da Ponte. Centuries ago, the Rialto bridge was the only way to cross over the Grand Canal but is now one of four bridges where you can cross. Present day, the bridge has shops for tourists and features beautiful views of the canal. 

RIALTO MARKET

Arrive in the morning to see the Rialto Market at its finest. You'll be rewarded with mounds of brightly colored produce and swarms of fishmongers with their fresh morning catches on display for purchase. 

CAFFÈ FLORIAN

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A favorite of Casanova, Caffè Florian is one of the oldest coffee shops in the world. Established in 1720, they have done a great job of maintaining the ambiance. Rooms are ornately decorated and waiters wear tuxedos as they serve cappuccinos on silver trays. Just be prepared for the hefty price tag.

 

 

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION

Arguably one of Europe's finest galleries of modern art, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a refreshing break from the ever present Renaissance art in Europe. After her father died on the Titanic, heiress Peggy Guggenheim became dedicated to the collection of modern and contemporary art. An American expat who lived in Venice, the gallery is Peggy's personal collection and is housed in her former home. It features works from Ernst, Pollock, Picasso, Dalí and many others. 

CA' SAGREDO HOTEL

Ca' Sagredo is an elaborate 15th century palace turned hotel that overlooks the Grand Canal. Stay in one of the 42 rooms or just grab a cappuccino to enjoy along the water. Don't leave without going upstairs to explore the salons and dining areas equipped with ornate artwork of its time.

BURANO

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Take a day trip to experience Venice's best kept secret - Burano. Like Venice, Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon and is about a 40 minute boat ride from Piazza San Marco. The small island is known for its lace work and brightly colored homes. A photographers dream.

 

GET LOST

The city's passageways are extremely complicated and even with directions or a map it can be a challenge to get from point A to point B. In fact, you have not properly experienced Venice until you have gotten lost in its back alleys and canal ways. Good for us that, with dreamy Italian scenes around every corner, getting lost in Venice is so magical. 


 

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